This morning, Hustler VC Oren Bennett pointed Betabeat’s attention to a list of judges and emcees for the annual SXSW Accelerator, a competition sponsored by Microsoft BizSpark that culminates in awards for four lucky startups. Not as coveted a prize as the Breakout Award–which helped catapult Twitter, Foursquare, and then GroupMe to fame, financing, and an acquisition–perhaps, but a nice trophy all the same.
We already introduced you to the four Made In NYC companies that will be competing, but here’s a look at who’s deciding their fate.
Guess Alexis Ohanian and Brad Burnham won’t be going to Washington after all. Rep. Lamar Smith, one of the co-sponsors of the Stop Online Piracy Act, just announced that the bill “will no longer include a provision that would require ISPs to block access to overseas web sites accused of piracy,” according to CNET.
The announcement comes a week before Mr. Ohanian and Mr. Burnham were scheduled to appear before the committee to talk about the issues raised by the bill’s provisions for DNS and search engine blocking.
Brad Burnham of Union Square Ventures and Alexis Ohanian of Reddit, Breadpig, Hipmunk and Google+ are headed to Washington to testify as witnesses for an “Oversight Hearing on DNS and Search Engine Blocking” on Jan. 18 called by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), a fierce opponent of the Stop Online Piracy Act and a cosponsor of the similar but completely different Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act. Of SOPA, he’s said: “Butchering the internet is not a way forward for America.”
SOPA allows for Hollywood, record labels and other intellectual property holders to cut off U.S. users’ access to the servers hosting the bad content. That happens by basically removing the DNS entry for the infringing site. The law also applies to sites that link to infringing sites, which would give search engines a primary spot on the collateral damage list.
Opponents have pinpointed DNS and search engine blocking as failure points of the legislation. We know SOPA is bad because it counteracts the protection from user-submitted content made sacred by the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, a law whose protections are credited for much of the innovation on the web. But DNS—the protocol and registry that translates natural language domain names into IP addresses—is a little more technical, so Betabeat asked New York tech godfather Anil Dash who helped Betabeat out with an explanation.
The Third Degree
A heated bidding war taking place at the World Trade Center has finally wrapped up. At stake was the largest collection of technology patents ever assembled into a single sale portfolio, the treasure trove of the now bankrupt Nortel.
Google emerged as the early front runner with a $900 million bid and was expected to compete with Apple over a price that could reach as high as $1.5 billion. In the end a coalition of Microsoft, Apple, RIM, and Sony beat out Google with a massive $4.5 billion bid.
The sad reality of the situation is that the massive interest in the patents is not about innovation. When Google filed its stalking horse bid back in April, Google’s general counsel, Kent Walker, said the search giants interest was primarily defensive, “to create a disincentive for others to sue Google. The tech world has recently seen an explosion in patent litigation, often involving low quality software patents.”
The Start-Up Rundown
Q: You always remember the ones that got away. Tell us about the startup you regret passing on the most.
A: That’s easy Airbnb. They fit our investment thesis perfectly – they are a network of engaged users differentiated by user experience and defensible through network effects. We invest in networks because they have the power to collapse inefficient intermediaries. We should have understood that Air B&B could do to the hotel industry what Craigslist did to the newspaper industry. Unfortunately, I let my personal biases dominate the analysis. Its been a long time since I couch surfed and I had lost touch with the population who finds it natural and convenient. In a way I am most disappointed because my squeamishness about crashing with a stranger reflects a loss of faith in our species. Read More
The start-up week starts Wednesday:
VIDEO LAUNCH. General Assembly-based VHX.tv, launched by Vimeo alum Casey Pugh and Know Your Memester Jamie Wilkinson about a month and a half ago, is in public beta as of yesterday. The app, which creates a curated stream of video based on links your friends share on Twitter, Tumblr and the rest, has a better looking interface than TechStars-hatched competitor Shelby.tv and more channels , verticals, or filters, whatever you want to call them–but unlike Shelby, doesn’t put emphasis on who exactly shared what. “Coming soon: mixtape-style playlists, an API for developers, and iPhone, iPad and Boxee apps,” the company teased.
Meanwhile, Blip.TV and YouTube are ramping up efforts to suck users into web television with the same enthusiasm previous generations had for television-television.